by Rick Griffin 

Advertising on the Internet is becoming the next big thing in the world of marketing. 

From Madison Avenue to Silicon Valley, companies are frantically trying to figure out what on-line advertising is all about, as well as scrambling to take advantage of an arena that some predict will do nothing less than change the nature of marketing itself. 

Today's advertisers feel they need to jump-in early and help shape this new media or let the world pass them by.  It's like the Wild West. A gold rush is going on as marketers see the Internet as a marketplace, a whole new medium for selling goods. 

Which is quite different than only a few years ago when many were dismissing cyberspace as beyond the reach of advertising.  

After all, cyberspace was peopled by gearheads and techno-junkies fiercely opposed to any form of commercial intrusion. The Internet, marketers once thought, was only the technical province of academics and computer whiz kids. 

But, as millions of consumers buy personal computers for the first time, on-line advertising is approaching mainstream. Some experts say, slowly but surely, the future of commerce is on-line. 

Most users now accept advertising -- in fact, research shows that many welcome it. In a recent Roper poll, when people were asked if they wanted information about specific products and brands over the new media, over half said yes. 

As a group, though, they remain highly independent, primarily interested in seeking out useful information for themselves.  

So, ad agencies are learning some new tricks, and the ad game may never be the same again. 

There are an estimated 40 million Internet users worldwide today, and that number is expected to more than triple over the next three years.  

And the audience demographics can't be beat: young, upscale, college-educated consumers with an average income of $55,000 who are considered open to new products and new ideas. 

Some advertisers are allocating their on-line dollars to reach Generation Xers and baby boomers where they live: at the computer. They're pitching everything from resort vacations to beer. 

While there's the potential to make a fortune, there's also the risk of spending a fortune with little in return. 

Unless you write software code, build computer or own phone lines, many business owners have tried to make money on the Internet the old-fashioned way: by selling goods or services. 

For this bunch, the costs are often high and profits elusive. According to a survey done by The Economist, the average cyberstore vendor makes one on-line sale a day, for a revenue stream of less than $25,000 a year. 

Advertising costs for on-line publications can vary widely and updating a Web site requires ongoing maintenance. 

Also, consumers can have trouble finding Web sites of advertisers because there's no comprehensive directory. 

With all the high expectations, a major question remains: what kind of "commercial" on the Internet will produce results and move the goods? Since Internet users are not captive consumers, they go only to the sites they choose.  

Will colorful video pages with sound or free e-mail attract attention, or is buying space on electronic publications and on-line services the way to go? 

Advertisers have found that going online is like driving from place to place along previously unmapped roads, occasionally zooming off in a new direction on impulse.  

A lot of it is experimental and to speculate the impact on advertising is anyone's guess. 

The main challenge for marketers is learning how to attract a sizeable audience in the scattered landscape of cyberspace.  

Right now, some advertising execs believe there's not enough compelling stuff out there to convince enough people to close a book, shut off their TV and walk inside to turn on the computer.  

The future of Internet advertising depends not on technology but on content, according to a study by the American Association of Advertising Agencies. 

Advertisers remain suspicious of the Web because its interactive qualities make it so easy for consumers simply to bypass an ad. 

Interactive marketers must convince independent cruisers to come take a look at their message. Because with so many doors to enter, what's the thing will entice Internet users to point and click to a commercial? No one knows for sure. 

Judging from discussions with a variety of new-media marketers who are members of the Ad Club, it appears likely that -- out of necessity -- on-line advertising must be very different from the glitzy hard-sell used in most media today. 

To succeed and foster commerce, cyberspace commercials should break down the traditional wall between editorial and advertising, closely linking the sales pitch and the story, similar to advertorials.  

In addition, a key is developing a relationship with the target audience. Remember that on-line consumers talk back; they demand instant information; the moment they lose interest, one click of the computer mouse and they are gone. 

In order to hold attention, some advertisers should develop "interactive" advertising that delivers the message in successive layers as part of a dialogue with the consumer, say the experts. 

Once the individual shows interest in the initial pitch, the interactive advertiser moves to the next stage, which delivers a message designed specifically for that consumer. 

To complement the advertising message, other advertisers are using games, posters and graphic icons, along with the opportunity to click onto other sites on the Web -- a city-by-city restaurant guide, for example, that has no direct connection to the product. 

What's the major challenge in buying goods over the Net? Getting consumers accustomed to the idea of making financial purchases via the Web.  

Several strategies, including smart cards with a fixed denominational value, may help consumers feel more comfortable and overcome privacy and security concerns.  

So far, on-line retailing has been mostly a game of wait-and-switch: See our Web page, now contact us by phone or fax to get the real goodies. 

In conclusion, the Internet is shifting into a commercial medium and it's difficult to predict exactly how that will play out.  

Advertising on the Internet is like the discovery of electricity. It may take awhile before people figure out how to harness the energy. 

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Rick Griffin, president of Rick Griffin Marketing Communications, is an Executive Board member of the Advertising Club of San Diego. 

Supporting Kids' Teams 
by Rick Griffin 

It's that time of year again.  

The late afternoon workday routine is being broken by the crack of the bat as parents leave the office early for their kids' baseball and softball practices and games. 

The evidence is easy to spot:  

-- Suddenly, there's an preponderance of 4 p.m. "outside-the-office appointments.  

-- On casual day, several guys show-off their Little League caps. 

-- The boss has an extra change of clothes in his car trunk, or maybe he changes into a T-shirt and knickers in the office restroom. 

-- Your supervisor, over the next few months, has an abundance of late afternoon personal appointments for a variety of reasons (a sick relative, cooking classes, acupuncturist, etc.). 

Yes, spring is in the air -- along with a bat and ball. 

Parents' feelings can run deep about taking time off to support their kids' teams. 

For some dads, teaching their son how to throw a baseball is the essence of parenthood. Missing even one pitch of your daughter's softball game can be tantamount to neglecting God-given responsibilities. 

At the workplace, however, youth sports can become a major source of conflict. 

With workloads and corporate staffs down, co-workers, especially non-parents and singles, can resent it when someone sneaks-out early or at inconvenient times to cheer at their son's or daughter's athletic outings. 

Demographic changes, including more single parents and dual-career couples with children, are forcing many companies to wrestle with their role in addressing work-family conflicts caused by youth sports. Among the issues:  

-- How far should an employer go in helping resolve an employee's conflicts between work and family? How much flexibility and understanding is too much? If managers are too flexible, will they arrive at work one day to find an empty office? 

-- What if it's impossible to make-up lost time? If a parent takes one hour off per game, what if there's two games a week? Or three? 

-- What if a childless worker wants to take off an hour to play tennis or go to the movies? Why should only parents benefit because of lifestyle choices they made? 

-- While bosses might have the freedom to disappear, the privilege to "come-and-go-as-you-please" may not apply to a lower-ranking worker whose child plays second base. 

Such conflicts demand a kind of flexibility and understanding that is sometimes scarce in the American workplace. 

The best solution is to communicate and allow for flexible-scheduling options. Guidelines and compromises in advance for temporary personal needs should be set and followed.  

A boss might say, "Changes in schedule of no more than 1-2 hours a day, once or twice a week, are permissible as long as the work gets done. But I'd like to know about them in advance." 

One effective strategy, say experts, is to enlist the employee as a partner in weighing personal and business needs. Managers should avoid a knee-jerk response before rejecting a worker's request to leave early for youth sports. It's better to step back and say, "Wait, is there a way to make this work?" 

A recent study said that supervisors who handle work-life issues with flexibility and respect are rewarded with an increase in loyalty, a willingness to work overtime when there's deadlines to meet and an overall productivity improvement. 

Parents who feel strongly about getting early to the athletic field on weekdays need to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to the business by arriving early, skipping lunch or working on weekends or Saturdays (before or after the game) in exchange for time off.  

Failure to talk openly about fundamental family values can break down workplace disciplines, destroy teamwork and create some terrible acid indigestion among traditional-minded partners. 

Adapting to youth sports at all levels in the workplace is the best way to retain good employees, reduce absenteeism and foster teamwork and customer service. 

Play ball! 

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Rick Griffin is a dad, a Little League coach and president of Rick Griffin Marketing Communications, a San Diego public relations and advertising agency. 

 The PR Industry Writes The News 
What does the man-on-the-street say when asked to identify the most powerful influences on public opinion? 

Answers would include the news media, politicians, business leaders, the entertainment world and advertising. 

What's missing? Public Relations. 

What exactly is Public Relations? PR has been described as: 

-- A strategy that maintains successful communication between a client and its target audiences (i.e. getting someone to take action); 

-- A program that earns public understanding, goodwill and acceptance (i.e. doing good and getting credit for it); and 

-- A process that results in favorable publicity in the news media (i.e. making your client famous). 

There's a glossary of slang for the PR practitioner, including "flack," "mouthpiece," "spin doctor," "propagandist," "image maker" and "shyster." 

For most Americans, the PR practitioner has remained a transparent huckster who has tremendous influence on what you buy, the foods you eat, the books you read, the movies you watch, the issues you support and the politicians you elect. In a sense, much of today's headlines were first written by the PR industry. 

But isn't PR mostly only a bunch of mindless hype? Well, it's true that sometimes to get attention you need to hit the public on the head with a frying pan.  

But the PR discipline is more than a P.T. Barnum gag or crisis-to-crisis damage control or planting newspaper articles about clients. Rather, P-R is overall reputation management. 

Adfolks may scream foul, but first-rate Public Relations -- properly executed -- can deliver just as much wallop-per-buck as a half-page ad. And PR can be more cost-effective than advertising. 

Remember that PR is less predictable than advertising. Advertising has the advantage of allowing the advertiser complete control over when and where the message will appear and exactly what it will say and look like. 

However, no one can guarantee that news about a particular business will attract the curiosity of a local newspaper or 

magazine editor, or whether a TV news station might happen to have a camera crew available for your event. 

Getting good PR can be time-consuming and frustrating. There's no such thing as free publicity. But, for credibility, nothing can top a positive story in the newspaper or a TV news appearance. And nothing can equal a reputation as a good neighbor in the community. 

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PR Can Help With Crisis Communications 
One of the most crucial roles in today's Public Relations field is crisis communications. 

A crisis, to a PR practitioner, is any newsmaking event that could happen to a client's organization which could result in negative publicity in the news media. 

Most major U.S. corporations have a written crisis communications plan which outlines a course of action in the event of an emergency. Preparing in advance can salvage a reputation that has taken years to build. Dollars spent up front can save thousands down the road. 

The worst part of a crisis is being unprepared. Unfortunately, any business has the reasonable chance of being the victim of a major crime, accident, scandal, jurisprudence, political gaffe, hostage, act of God, public accusation or some other damaging incident. No one is immune from disasters or emergencies, not even the best companies. And no one can predict when, where or how a crisis will occur. 

So, many smart CEOs are removing the unexpected and turning to PR people to draft step-by-step procedures for what to say to news reporters when calamity strikes. Here's a few suggestions: 

-- Before the crisis, appoint a company spokesperson to handle the news media.  

Make sure everyone in the company knows, and is reminded occasionally, of the identity of the company spokesperson. Remember: if you don't appoint a spokesperson, the news media will appoint one for you by finding someone from your company to interview about the crisis. Think about it: whose quotes do you want in the newspaper -- a company president or a secretary with a grudge against management? 

-- Write your crisis communications plan now. 

Don't wing-it. A few executives might work well in the midst of a crisis or controversy when the adrenaline is flowing and vital decisions are made in a spilt second. But, the wrong spilt-second decision could cost a company millions of dollars in negative publicity. Being unprepared isn't worth the risk. 

Your crisis communication plan should answer the following: How will information be gathered and facts confirmed? How will management, employees, investors and customers be kept informed? What will be said if "this or that" happens? How do you prevent the spread of rumors and disinformation? 

-- Conduct "war games." 

A simulated crisis can give managers response training and hands-on experience. Rehearsal sessions will test your procedures and see if they work.  

-- Make friends with the press now.  

Avoid creating suspicion now because you'll need all your friends during a crisis. Proper handling of the press can make a vast difference in the perception the crisis will have on employees, customers and the general public. Mishandling the press during an emergency can seriously damage the company's reputation, lead possibly to exaggerated and false statements, and possibly subject the company to criminal investigation or unduly restrictive legislation. 

-- Never say "no comment" to the press. 

Those words create antagonism among reporters who are only trying to do their jobs. Stonewalling seldom keeps bad news from leaking out. Ignoring a crisis could become a bigger issue than the crisis itself. Also, in a crisis there are generally plenty of angry people looking for media exposure. In addition, a "no comment" response implies an admission of guilt. 

Finally, there is no reason to fear a crisis, if proper preparations have been made. The Chinese word for crisis is wei-ji, a combination of two words: danger and opportunity. 

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How To Choose A PR Firm For Your Business  

Getting the most for your Public Relations dollar begins with selecting the right PR agency.  

But how can you select a PR agency that's right for your business or your advertising client who's asking you to also provide cost-effective PR services? 

To choose which firm best suits your company, here's a few tips: 

-- Begin with a list of objectives. Define the needs, goals and ambitions of the client company. Write them on paper. This will help you immensely in the selection process. Also, it will help the agency you ultimately select to exceed your expectations. 

-- Ask for referrals. Quiz your business associates who have hired a PR firm. Are they pleased with their return-on-investment? Which firms have they heard about, or wished they had hired?  

-- Ask the news media. Add to your short list the PR agencies recommended by reporters who cover your industry. They know well which PR firm is helping them do their job and who is nothing more than an aggravation. 

-- Pick up the phone. Before any face-to-face meeting, ask plenty of questions on the phone. Does the PR agency have experience in your industry? Are they familiar with your type of business?  Your goal with the initial screening is to determine capabilities and how quickly the PR agency could hit the ground on the run. 

-- Arrange an appointment. Even before any formal presentation, schedule a brief face-to-face meeting. Ask for credentials that detail background and examples of a PR agency's work and abilities.  

Also look for rapport. If you don't feel comfortable because the agency principal is making outlandish promises of front-page coverage and boasting of editors "in their back-pocket," then cross them off your list.  

Success with a PR firm equally depends on enthusiasm, camaraderie and willingness to listen, along with knowledge, an understanding of your industry, creativity, responsibility and professionalism. You must believe that your ideas are being understood and transmitted to the right audience. 

-- At the format presentation, the PR agency should discuss what it believes in, how it approaches PR challenges and success stories at problem solving. Make sure the people at the meeting are the ones who will ultimately handle your account. It's unlikely that large-agency principals will work on your account on a regular basis. Also, don't ask the PR agency to work for free by providing you with a lengthy list of creative PR ideas. 

-- Warning signs. Firing a PR agency is never a frivolous move. However, the aggravation of finding and indoctrinating a new agency can outweigh the annoyance of a troubled relationship, especially if there's frequent shifting of account executives or your agency no longer communicates with you on a regular basis. 

Other tell-tale warning signs: Your account hasn't been getting quite the attention it once commanded; results start to diminish; the so-called "new" ideas from the agency become stale; and billing conflicts arise. 

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How To Deal With The Press 

Talking to the news media can be like speaking in tongues for some business people.  

When the phone call is from a reporter, normally confident CEOs can feel distrust, fear and suspicion. I've seen them become scared, defensive weaklings. 

However, whether it's an interview with Mike Wallace and a "60 Minutes" camera crew or a part-time staffer with small, local community newspaper, the rules for talking to the press are still the same. 

-- Be honest. Reporters have a pretty good sense of when someone is lying. Count on the fact that the press eventually will find out if you tried to hoodwink them. So, tell the truth.  

Also, don't play the "off the record" game. Assume that every word in your conversation might appear in the story. Continuously going off the record makes you look evasive and is often unnecessary. 

-- Don't duck the phone call. Remember, the press is always "on deadline" and it's a reporter's job to get a story. So, if they don't get the information from you, they'll get "something" from outsiders who might not know the whole truth and probably is holding a grudge against your firm. 

When calls aren't returned, companies run the risk of seeing incomplete journalism and disinformation. In addition, statements like "Mr. CEO does not want to talk with you" can't help but plant a seed of doubt in the reporter's mind about the company's integrity. 

-- Speak in plain English. Especially for engineers and other technological geniuses, it can be very frustrating to explain in simple language (without insider jargon) about your gadget and industry. So, assume nothing. Just because the reporter may have covered business for years does not make him or her an expert in your field.  

-- If the news is bad, get it out fast and tell the whole truth (as much as you know at the time). Don't try to hide or conceal, or your credibility will quickly vanish. If the information comes out piece-meal, the damage can accumulate.  

Perhaps the biggest communications faux pas at Three Mile Island was an utility executive at an impromptu press conference failing to admit about small off-site radiation releases. He later justified his deceptive behavior by saying, "Because the press did not ask about it." However, his failure to tell what the whole truth gave reporters heightened skepticism and misgivings about any information provided by the utility. 

If you're up front with bad news, you'll be trusted on another occasion with good news. 

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When is it news? 

In today's highly charged business environment, publicity can play a key role in providing a competitive edge for your clients. 

Generating positive visibility can build an image, add credibility, generate leads and extend the reach of the dollar spent on advertising.  

Publicity can also attract attention from key audiences, including current and prospective customers, community and government leaders and other influential decision-makers. 

As you probably realize, a large percentage of local news you read on a daily basis originates with PR people.  

Most companies have a wide variety of newsworthy stories to tell, but they just don't recognize it. A common mistake is to declare something as newsworthy which really isn't news at all. 

Identifying newsworthy information and then presenting the information in an effective format to the news media is critical to PR success. 

Here's a few ways to judge and evaluate newsworthiness: 

Generally, it is news when it contains one or more of major ingredients of human interest, namely: 

-- When it is new; e.g., a new trend or industry issue. 

     -- When it is novel; e.g., identical twins suffer identical injuries. 

     -- When it relates to famous persons; e.g., celebrities or entertainers. 

     -- When it directly affects business people; e.g. information about taxes or statistical analysis of numbers. 

     -- When it involves conflict; e.g. land development battles, divorces, athletic contests. 

-- When it involves mystery; e.g. most crimes. 

     -- When it is considered confidential; e.g., information that was previously concealed. 

     -- When it pertains to the future; e.g., plans for improving a city, life in the year 2000. 

Other ways your clients can make news is to publicize: 

     -- New innovative marketing strategies that have worked over a period of time; 

     -- A story about the latest trends and developments in the industry with "authoritative" quotes and opinions from third-party influentials; 

-- A story about new services (the benefits, features and low-cost) that just became available; 

     -- Tie-in with a news event of the day; 

-- Make a analysis, economic forecast or prediction; 

-- Issue or diagnose statistics; 

-- Adapt national reports and surveys locally; 

-- Conduct a poll or survey and release the results; 

-- Contribute to a local community charity; 

-- Make an award; 

-- Stage a seminar or special event; 

-- Write an opinion piece for the newspapers; 

-- Announce an appointment; 

-- Celebrate an anniversary. 

By identifying, compiling and disseminating legitimate newsworthy information about your clients, you can positively affect their business...and yours at the same time. 

The positive press coverage received by the client could very well end up being "the edge" needed to surpass the competition. 

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PR Tools Tell Your Story 

In today's fast-paced world, the competition for positive editorial coverage from news organizations can be mind-boggling. Hundreds of phone calls, thick press kits and sketchy news releases cross editors' desks every day, constantly asking them to publish this story or write about that company. 

Here's a few Public Relations tools that might help cut through the clutter and, at the same time, make a reporter's life a little easier:  

-- Press Releases. The golden rule of news writing -- who, what, where, when and why -- must be applied to press releases, as well as other news-oriented writing. In the first paragraph, declare the most newsworthy aspect of your announcement and then explain the significance of the news. 

Other rules for press releases: don't get cute with your writing style; avoid insider jargon; avoid generalities, be as specific as possible; get rid of pretentious language, especially blatantly self-serving hype. The easiest thing the reader can do is stop reading. 

-- Pitch Letters. Compared to press releases, which are often sent to a slew of names on a mailing list, the pitch letter represents an individualized approach. It's designed to suggest a specific story idea to a specific editor. A good pitch letter will plant the germ of an idea with an reporter who hopefully will follow through with a published story. 

-- Media Advisory. Especially appropriate for the electronic news media and wire services, the one-page Media Advisory is useful for touting a one-time special event or press conference. In writing an effective Media Advisory, include the five W's and explain how the event is "visual" (Channels 8, 10, 39 and 51 will cover you only if the assignment editor believes a story can be told with pictures, not a "talking head").  

-- One-on-one Meetings. This is similar to the old "take an editor out to lunch" technique; however, most reporters are too savvy to be persuaded to do a story just because you treat them to an expensive French meal. 

Still, a one-on-one editorial briefing session can be beneficial to both the client and reporter. The editor can ask his own questions and slant the story according to his or her preference. Also, a personalized meeting with a CEO can makes a reporter feel special and helps to build a long-term relationship for future efforts.  

-- Press Conferences. I saved the worst for last. Personally, I hate press conferences because most of them are unnecessary and many times clients are greatly disappointed if several TV news crews don't show up.  

In addition, many reporters hate them. First, there's the traffic getting there. Then, finding a place to park. They rush in, firmly shake hands with those they know and pretend to know. Then, they sit down and begin to pray the thing doesn't last too long because deadline is approaching. 

If there's any doubt about scheduling a press conference, then don't do it. The news announced at your press conference must be spectacular, or else your client likely will be speaking to an empty room and the only people eating the lukewarm hors d'oeuvres will be employees. The best time for a press conference is the morning (TV crews generally hit the road around 10 a.m.). Begin punctually and limit the speeches. Anticipate questions that might be asked and prepare answers. Good luck. 

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Is Your PR Agency Ripping You Off? 

How do you know whether your PR agency is doing its job? How can you measure their performance?  

If you're a client reading this and assuming you're holding up your end of the bargain (by providing plenty of information and being responsive with speedy approvals), what questions should you ask to know if your agency is treating you right? 

-- Promising without results: if your ratio of stories placed is not running over 90 percent, someone needs to cast a more critical eye at every suggested story. Your PR person may not understand what makes the news media tick. Measure the incoming ink, not the outgoing mail. 

-- Do they ask questions about your business and industry? Is there a steady flow of unsolicited ideas, suggestions, what-ifs and queries? The best PR practitioners will read the leading publications in your field, note articles of interest -- including those that originate with your competitor -- and send them to you with questions and suggestions.  

-- Do they treat a PR program like an advertising campaign? Many good advertising campaigns are planned more carefully than their PR counterparts. Most PR programs today would benefit from more disciplined thinking, research and specific goals. For example, each article for a trade magazine should begin with an agreed-upon objective, target audience and message -- just like your entire marketing communications program. 

-- Is your PR agency adept at recycling?  If your agency "scores" with just one placement of an article, do they call it a day? Does your agency put different spins on the same basic story for various trade publications, trade show dailies, internal and external newsletters and local newspapers? Do they revise and update stories for product releases, technical articles and industry trend reports? 

-- How senior are the people on your account? Don't be fooled by numbers. A thoughtful pro or two can give you far more effective communications than a cast of 1,100 juniors. Is your account person also a writer? Has your account person worked as an editor, on the editors' side of the desk?  If you're seeing a new face too often, think about billing your agency for training. 

-- Here's a suggestion: ask penetrating questions of key editors who write for trade publications. Are they familiar with your PR agency? Do they consider your agency a resource?  Does your agency have reputation with them for reliability in meeting deadlines, accuracy in providing information and knowledge about their publication? 

Good luck. 

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PR Ideas For Layoffs, Mergers 

Whether it's called downsizing, restructuring, reorganization or simply getting the boot, hard times are expected to continue in U.S. business as hundreds of workers enter the boss's office and emerge without a job. Mergers, acquisitions and consoldiations will continue to result in layoffs. 

When any modest-size company -- even with the smallest public recognition and visibility -- decides to reduce staff, there's several proven Public Relations strategies that can help bosses with the communication aspect of swallowing the bitter layoff pill: 

-- Prepare a Communications Plan and follow it. Your Plan must address a variety of issues: Who will want to know what and when (anticipate the needs for information)? How will the company's various "publics" (i.e. customers, investors, management, remaining employees, news media) be kept informed?  How will you deal with threats of violence and employee security? Your plan should serve as a safety railing -- something to hang onto if the unexpected occurs. 

-- Keep the information flowing. Openness to your publics will lead to credibility and support an understanding of why people must lose their jobs. Put dollar signs on decisions. A merger, acquisition or consoldiation is based on a financial proposition, a commercial's not a "feel good" activitiy.  

A communicator's job is to play the financial angles and help deliver a bottom line rationale that inclues black ink and big numbers. 

Remember, there is nothing to be gained by rationing out the truth. People can cope with the truth. Anything less destroys credibility and risks outrage. People typically resist change and don't like surprises. They're spooked by ambiguity and uncertainity. So what's the best strategy? Eliminate some of the surprise by telling them the certainity of uncertainity.  

A warning: among the folks who will attempt to constrict the information flow: lawyers and human resource personnel. 

-- Place a high priority on human needs. Be sensitive to employee needs and emphasize the availability of such services as outplacement, counseling, job retraining, letters of recommendation, resume writing and referrals. 

-- Appoint a company spokesperson to deal with the press and decide ahead of time what he/she will say. Remember: if you don't appoint someone to speak on behalf of the company, a reporter will do it for you by interviewing a laid-off blue-collar worker who was near retirement, or a similar pathetic victim.  

Think about it: whose quotes do you want to read in the newspaper -- a company president who can quickly and articulately explain why a plant must shut down or a now-unemployed secretary (single mother with three kids and a grudge against her ex-bosses)? 

The challenge is getting the job done with minimal adverse effects. Good luck. 

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Tips On Press Tours 

The press tour can be a highly effective tool in any PR program. A national or regional press tour for the purpose of establishing personal contacts with key members of the press can result in several key benefits. Here's a few: 

-- By meeting on the editor's home turf, your boss may find a more relaxed interviewer who might give a more favorable slant to the story (often, an editor's attention is fragmented at a trade show). 

-- A press tour provides extra time for your boss to have a rare opportunity to give an in-depth tailored description of the company's products and to explain relevant corporate and marketing strategies to a reporter whose prose are quoted by key industry influencers. 

-- You can generate both immediate and long-term editorial interest in the company. A tour can potentially create an "ink reserve" that will flow long after the tour is over. 

-- For West Coast companies, a press tour provides an excellent opportunity to meet with East Coast editors since few of these editors are likely to travel to the left coast just to do an interview.  

-- In meeting with both editors and analysts, a CEO can learn extra information about the state of the marketplace and how his or company is perceived in it. Sometimes, editors reveal valuable insights to market trends and "inside information," such as competitive tidbits gathered through research and countless interviews with competing companies. A CEO can directly ask the editor how his or her company or product stacks up against the competition.  

-- On a tour, PR professionals have extra time to offer in-depth counsel to corporate executives or technical managers that can serve the long-term editorial goals of the company. A tour provides an excellent opportunity for PR professionals to build a solid relationship with the client.  

-- Also, a tour provides an excellent environment for PR professionals to gain in-depth knowledge about the client's company and products. As a CEO replies to questions from a reporter, the PR professional can arrive at insights that might otherwise arrive sometime at a later date. By working together in response to the media's questions, the client and PR professional together can arrive at a common viewpoint that may lead to the development of new product and corporate positioning strategies. 

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Tribute To The Father of PR 

Edward L. Bernays, the man who launched the field of public relations in the 1920s, died in March at his Cambridge, Mass., home. He was 103. 

Often called the "father of public relations," Bernays is a major reason why people eat bacon with eggs, why women smoke cigarettes and why bank managers join civic groups. 

Among his classic, history-making campaigns: 

-- Bacon producers wanted to boost sales, so Bernays produced a study in which 5,000 doctors said heavier breakfasts, such as bacon and eggs, were healthier than lighter ones. 

-- Bank of America overcame a negative public attitude toward corporate bigness by getting its 500 branch managers to join civic groups with Kiwanis and Rotarians. The public's attitude improved and deposits increased. 

-- Procter & Gamble wanted to improve children's attitudes about soap -- many complained it burned their eyes -- and to encourage people to bathe daily rather than weekly. So, he got sculptors to use soap for sculpturing in their art classes and P&G sponsored a contest that had 22 million kids carving bars of Ivory soap. 

-- For Lucky Strike cigarettes, he overcame the taboo against women smoking in public by getting debutantes to march to New York's Central Park on a Sunday afternoon to light up "torches of freedom." The event drew huge press coverage. 

Bernays' steadfast rule that all public relations must be in the public's best interest led him decades later to work toward getting cigarette advertising off TV. 

Bernays was known for creating events that naturally drew media coverage. Perhaps his biggest coup was a 1929 project: "Light's Golden Jubilee" for General Electric and Westinghouse. To mark the 50th anniversary of the invention of the electric light bulb, Bernays had Thomas A. Edison reenact the discovery at a ceremony with Herbert Hoover and Henry Ford in attendance. 

The nephew of Sigmund Freud, Bernays opened his first office on East 48th Street in New York City in 1919. He wrote the field's landmark first book, Crystalizing Public Opinion. 

In a speech in San Diego 10 years ago, Bernays stressed that PR is "not press agentry, flackery or publicity, but an applied social science in which clients are advised how to inform, educate and persuade the public to accept their products, services or ideas. 

"When I started, everyone was using hunch and insight, but that didn't go far enough. You have to use feedback. Today, you don't take a chance with public opinion when modern polling techniques can tell you within 3 percentage points why you're wearing that particular tie or color shirt." 

Other bits of Bernays advice: 

-- Unless you get people behind your product, service or idea, you won't succeed. 

-- To be successful, business must get people to act. That's difficult because people don't like change. 

-- Keep dealings with the public very simple -- 16 words or less to a sentence, one idea to a sentence. 

Thank you, Edward Bernays.

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